I’m not sure of the moment black started becoming my preferred colour. But I knew I needed it in my wardrobe.
Not the stylish black, high-street fashions that made this Queenslander feel out of place on a Melbourne tram, but a simple T-shirt.
A black T-shirt with the number 100 in large white print up high along the back.
One hundred parkruns completed — a symbol of persistence, not necessarily performance.
And I could relate to that.
Parkrun is a free community event held every Saturday around the world.
You receive a barcode when you sign up and your times each week are tracked and emailed to you within hours of the event. There are more than 400 locations across Australia. Some people have favourites. Others try to get somewhere different every weekend.
Millions of people across the world take part but parkrun’s name is a misnomer.
Sure there are sprinters and young guys desperate to wipe another second off their time.
But then there’s the rest of us.
You don’t have to run, you don’t even have to jog. Walking is embraced, as are dogs and children and strollers.
And if none of that appeals you can simply volunteer and never put a foot on the path to the finish line. Plenty have taken that option too. Laughter and chatter are encouraged.
It is a wonderful combination of exercise and community and my friends joke that I am so enthusiastic about its benefits it could also be a cult.
My first parkrun was in Southwark Park, in London, in 2015 when I forced myself into the cool autumn air after one of my first challenging weeks as the ABC’s Europe bureau chief.
I wondered what people wore, maybe expensive running gear, where would I keep my printed barcode (which tracks your weekly times), would I end up so far at the back of the pack I’d lose my way, or, given it was inner-city London, was my bike going to get nicked.
It turned out you only feel like a first-timer once. And before long I approach each Saturday hearing the sing-song voices of excitement as the volunteers welcomed participants long before I saw their hi-vis vests.
I’d hoped parkrun would help keep me fit and it did that. Consistency wasn’t a given but I gradually turned a 46-minute 5km jog into a 34-minute personal best.
That wasn’t the most important consideration though, even if I didn’t realise it initially.
The biggest benefit was what was going on in my mind.
For an hour every Saturday, I could switch off the constant replay of terror attacks or burning buildings or grieving families.
For an hour every Saturday, I gave myself peace.
That first run took place in October 2015 and the next nine seemed to take months to complete.
Then suddenly it was 25 and then 30 and then the holy grail of a red T-shirt with the number 50 on the back.
And we love red right? But who wants red when you can have black.
And suddenly, that milestone T-shirt signifying 100 parkruns seemed within reach.
Except for COVID.
And for what felt like months on end, we completed solo outings or joined video links connecting with our fellow parkrunners as each Saturday left a gaping hole in our lives.
But that too was a reminder that parkrun was not just a sports event but a celebration of a community bond and one that even COVID couldn’t break.
So maybe this Saturday I’ll do my 85th parkrun and give myself a pat on the back. I’ll probably walk it because I’ve discovered a whole group of interesting people at the back of the pack.
And hopefully I’ll find someone doing their first parkrun and we’ll have a chat and when we’re done I’ll tell them with confidence, “See you next Saturday.”
Original story appeared here.
parkrun is partnering with ABC Sport to promote the benefits of physical activity and community participation.
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